July 13, 2022
Disasters resulting from natural hazards pose an increasing threat to human health and safety, livelihoods and economies, and their impacts are expected to worsen with climate change. While nature-based solutions are emerging as possible strategies to mitigate disaster risk, there is limited knowledge about their efficiency and equity outcomes. A series of new reports based on a study led by Marta Vicarelli, assistant professor of public policy and economics, helps assess the economic efficiency and equity of nature-based solutions that focus on ecosystem restoration, conservation and sustainable management to reduce disaster risk and strengthen community resilience.
The study performs an economic efficiency and equity analysis of the “Up-scaling Community Resilience through Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction” project, an Eco-DRR and resilience enhancement intervention in Uganda, Indonesia, India and Haiti conducted from 2018 until June 2022 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with Partners for Resilience (PfR) – a global coalition between the Netherlands Red Cross, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Center, Cordaid, Wetlands International and CARE Netherlands.
The key result of the economic efficiency analysis performed by the UMass team is that the benefits of the Eco-DRR and resilience enhancement interventions outweigh the value of their initial costs. The team also found that a portfolio of community resilience activities and capacity-building strengthens the effectiveness of the Eco-DRR interventions, and their findings suggest that community resilience is further enhanced by supporting local economic development through the adoption of sustainable livelihood practices.
“We performed an economic efficiency assessment of the project through a quantitative Cost-Benefit Analysis and a qualitative analysis that considers non-monetary benefits, too,” Vicarelli says. “Our quantitative estimates show that the benefits of the Eco-DRR and resilience enhancement interventions outweigh the value of their initial costs. Our qualitative analysis complements these findings, presenting a rich bouquet of long-lasting benefits associated with the Eco-DRR strategies, ecosystem management and sustainable livelihood practices implemented during the project. Lastly, our equity assessment indicates that the project promotes equity by enhancing inclusivity, economic equality, participation and capacity building. In particular, the resilience interventions implemented result in significant health, safety and economic improvements for women, children and economically vulnerable members of the local communities.”
Joining Vicarelli as co-investigators were master’s students Anamaria Georgescu, landscape architecture and regional planning, and Kerry Judge, public policy. Contributing to the project, which was a collaboration connected to the School of Public Policy’s public policy workshop course, were environmental conservation students Asiel Arroyo, Jessica Mooring and Jennifer Nelson, and public policy students Htike Htike Aung, Nujhat Purnata and Yin Yin Win.
As part of the study, Vicarelli’s team organized a learning workshop with local project partners to share detailed information about the methodological approach used and the results of their analysis. Vicarelli says that the final goal of the workshop is ensuring that the project partners will be able to reproduce equity and efficiency assessments for future interventions and communicate those findings to local and regional stakeholders to promote policies that further disaster risk reduction and community resilience.
“This course is a consulting-based class that allows graduate students to work as consultants for partner organizations,” Vicarelli says. “Basically, all students involved in this high-profile project effectively worked as consultants for our partner organizations, engaging with multiple international teams and gaining professional experience of immeasurable value. Our UMass team had Zoom meetings multiple times a week with our collaborators from partner organizations in each of the countries. This is a rare and invaluable experience for young professionals and even more so for students before graduation.”
Among the interventions that the team analyzed for each country, were:
Haiti – The portfolio of Eco-DRR and resilience enhancement activities in Haiti focuses on community-based forest ecosystem restoration and management; improved flood and landslide hazards response preparedness; and training and support for sustainable livelihood development. Leveraging the engagement of 43 community-based organizations, the Eco-DRR project target is to make 70,000 people resilient to disasters and climate change, chronic food insecurity and land degradation.
India – The portfolio of community-driven Eco-DRR and resilience building activities in India focuses on landscape restoration of wetlands, including afforestation and restoration of natural vegetation, promotion of sustainable water management and sanitation and creation of new economic opportunities through community training on sustainably managed agriculture. As a result of Eco-DRR activities, including restoration and conservation of 4,000 hectares of ecosystems, the project target is to make 60,000 people resilient to natural hazards and climate change, which is also achieved by leveraging the engagement of 25 community-based organizations.
Indonesia – The interventions in Indonesia focus on peatland restoration, conservation and sustainable management. A portfolio of community resilience activities and capacity building enhances the effectiveness of the Eco-DRR intervention in mitigating peatland fires. These activities include: community training on Eco-DRR, water level monitoring and canal blocking; implementation of a Bio-rights funding scheme to incentivize participatory ecosystem restoration and protection; training of two community fire brigades and implementation of fire awareness community trainings; and enhanced peat monitoring and fire preparedness activities. Community resilience is further enhanced by supporting local economic development through the adoption of sustainable livelihood practices including paludiculture, aquaculture, maggot-culture and other sustainable agricultural practices. These sustainable livelihood practices lead to both socio-economic benefits and ecosystem services enhancement. The project engages 708 local people as well as 15 community-based organizations (CBOs) and increases the resilience to peatland fire risk of about 2,300 residents from target villages.
Uganda – The portfolio of Eco-DRR and resilience enhancement activities in Uganda focuses on community-based restoration of local forests; wetland ecosystem restoration and sustainable riverine ecosystems management; improved water infrastructure and sustainable water resource management practices to promote water security; education of local residents to support ecosystem-restoration practices (e.g., farmer-managed natural tree regeneration practices) and sustainable livelihood activities (e.g., apiculture, climate smart agriculture); and direct support and expansion of sustainable livelihood development (e.g., tree nursery management, apiculture, sustainable grazing practices and climate-smart agriculture). The project target is to make more than 150,000 people resilient to natural hazards and climate change, directly train 125 community-based organizations and restore and protect 40,000 hectares of ecosystems.
The reports for each nation’s Eco-DRR and resilience enhancement interventions and a video recording of the May 2022 learning workshop can be found on Vicarelli’s website.